The Canada Reads team on why their book is the best journey

Congratulations to dirksy, the latest winner of a Canada Reads prize pack, which consists of copies of all five books and an always fashionable and extremely practical Canada Reads tote bag. We're giving away another set this week. Keep reading to find out how you can win!


Our celebrity panelists will be standing up for their favourite read in the February debates, but the Canada Reads team is on the case right now. Five of our producers have chosen to go to bat for their favourite Canada Reads 2012 title. Each week, they will make an argument for their book as the best.

But why should we have all the fun? You can get involved too — and just by jumping into the fray, you get a chance to win a Canada Reads prize pack. We're giving one away every week. To enter, see what our team has to say about their book of choice, then answer the question at the bottom of the post for a chance to win.

Every book tells a story — and often that story is a journey. This week, we asked our defenders to explain what journey their chosen book takes readers on and why it's the most appealing one for readers to jump aboard. See what they had to say below!


Adrian defends The Game by Ken Dryden

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First, the team journey: the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970s were a dynasty, winning six Stanley Cups, including four consecutive championships during the latter half of the decade. But every great team comes to a crossroads. Success often breeds lethargy or conflicts of ego. Players once revered for their athleticism get injured, grow old and fail to keep up with younger competition. Throughout the book, Dryden reflects on the journey of the Canadiens from scrappy underdogs to perennial champions, and the intense scrutiny and pressure the aging team faces during the 1978-1979 season. Can they pull it off just one more time?

There's also a personal journey about a man who loves hockey, grew up with the game, and achieved true greatness on the ice. Dryden was in his early 30s when he decided to retire, not because he was unable to keep playing at this level, but because he also wanted to pursue a law career. To walk away when you've passed your prime is one thing, but to walk away with plenty good years left is rare, especially in professional athletics. Throughout the book, Dryden reveals how he arrived at his difficult decision and the uncertainty he faced.

Finally, there's the fascinating journey of a Canadian citizen. Dryden, born and raised near Toronto, becomes part of the community in Montreal. He navigates the Anglophone-Francophone cultural divide, recalls major political and social tensions during the October Crisis and the rise of the Quebec sovereignty movement, and shows the progression of a person gaining more understanding and appreciation for the complexity that is Canada.



Nicole defends On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini

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First things first, On a Cold Road didn't just take you on a "journey," it took you on an actual journey! Across Canada! The Rheostatics hit up most major Canadian cities and even went for a jaunt across the border. You're given new perspectives on places you know and fun tales about places you've yet to visit.

But in On a Cold Road, Dave Bidini went on a "journey," too. We get a taste of the challenges he faced in his early days: a mere kid unsuccessfully learning to play guitar and a high schooler bouncing from band to band.

Success didn't come easily for the Rheostatics either. They played empty clubs. They played big arenas to a chorus of people cheering for The Tragically Hip. But they never packed it in and permanently left the stage. They kept getting up there and playing night after night.

Overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of your life's dreams and goals is, well, life itself. And if you want to stick with this crazy little journey called life, we need to get inspired by Bidini and his bandmates. The band Journey said it best: don't stop believing.



Barb defends Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

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I can't imagine a more intense personal journey from innocence to experience than Marina Nemat's account of being arrested and imprisoned, at the age of 16, in Iran's most notorious political prison, and the struggle she went through to finally win her freedom.

In narrative terms, Prisoner of Tehran is also a brilliantly paced example of the classic journey: along the way, there are moments of defeat and triumph, conflict, stunning reversals of fortune and, eventually, a satisfying conclusion. It's deeply personal yet profoundly political in its scope. It's also, perhaps improbably, a love story. It portrays not only the harrowing drama of life in prison, but the back story of Marina's family life growing up, giving the reader insight into Iranian society. It presents the full spectrum of human experience that life's journey always holds: joy and sorrow, tender moments and terrifying ones.

But the main reason this journey is the most compelling? We can feel small and powerless in the face of what's going on in the world, even in our own cities and neighbourhoods. Prisoner of Tehran is an inspiring reminder that ordinary people are at the heart of major historical events, and their actions matter. Their names may not be destined for the headlines or history books — as most of ours aren't — but the things they cherish, the principles and values they stand up for, are the foundation of change for the better. That's the kind of lesson that stays with you.

Sorry, hockey star, rockers, et al.: your journeys simply don't have the same intensity of experience and seriousness of what's at stake. Even The Tiger is toothless in comparison.



Debbie defends Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre

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Carmen Aguirre takes you on both a historical and deeply personal ride that does laps around the competition.

The historical:

Carmen vividly provides you with a sense of the political landscape of South America during the 1970s and 80s — from Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Peru and beyond. And, like a deft Formula 1 driver, she takes those corners from the personal to the historical with precision and the right balance.

The personal:

Carmen transforms her unique and compelling coming-of-age journey as an underground revolutionary into a road we all find familiar: one that begins with a violent clash between ideals and desires to eventual compromise and self-acceptance.

And if a real journey is also about transformation, that's here too.

Carmen struggles to suppress her "bourgeois" wish to go to a Michael Jackson concert or be treated like a princess at her Quinceneara party. Self-acceptance comes at the end of the book: "...the reason so many struggles are lost [is because of] the inhuman demands placed on those who are fighting for the dream."

The competition:

None of the other books in this competition weaves their personal journey with that of at least four countries AND does so in such a way that resonates with what's going on today.

Occupy that, my fellow competitors.



Alison defends The Tiger by John Vaillant

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The Tiger takes readers deep into the cold heart of the Russian "taiga," or forest, on a dangerous journey tracking an injured, hungry and angry tiger. And along the way, you learn heart-warming life lessons about sharing and caring with tigers!

Just kidding. The lessons gleaned from this journey are about the harsh rule of the jungle, the unforgiving nature of the forest and the overwhelming injustice of a system that makes sheer survival almost impossible and forces desperate citizens to resort to illegal poaching of animals that are both dangerous and endangered.

The other journey that Vaillant takes his readers on is the journey of the tiger itself, and how his habits, instincts and nature change as he becomes a hunter of humans. Healthy wild tigers generally have their sights set on larger, more rewarding game: a full-size wild boar, for example, is far more satisfying than a meagre human. But as this tiger has been grievously injured by the bullet of a human hunter, he starts to scavenge and to go after easier to catch prey such a dogs and humans. And with every human he kills, he becomes more adept at killing humans. And all because his own natural order of things was destroyed by a man-made bullet.



Ready to win a Canada Reads prize pack and decide for yourself which of our defenders is right? Now's your chance! Answer the following question in the comments below:

What kind of journey is most compelling to you as a reader?

The deadline for entries is midnight, ET on Sunday, January 8. The complete rules and regulations are here. Good luck!

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